10 August 20185 min reading

“Assessing the quality of maize (corn) quickly and reliably is a challenging task. Which is why Bühler has developed a technology making it possible to analyze grain samples anywhere and at any time, thus determining the expected grit yield and quality of the maize.  With the mobile maize analyzer GrainiGo, the sample is analyzed within minutes in terms of quality and expected yield. Based on the quickly and reliably determined quality, producers and buyers can set a binding price for the raw material maize even in the field or certainly before unloading. Thus, a costly production run with reduced yield can be prevented.”

Picture_Janine Wegmann

Janine Wegmann - Product Management

Merchants and millers rely on their experience to determine the quality of the maize and negotiate the value of the crop. Equally, producers have been looking for those same characteristics as their crop matures in the field, to help predict what they hope to get at the market. But the challenge for buyer and seller alike is that their opinion is always subjective and open to dispute. Which, in an industry where up to 80 percent of maize-milling costs are tied up in raw material, can spell risk for everyone in the production chain.

Quality control methods Today, maize quality is often analyzed visually. For example, when a lorry arrives at a milling operation the employees have to assess hundreds of kernels, which is generally time-consuming, imprecise, and subjective. The method of visual inspection depends strongly on the person who is carrying out the analysis and poses, therefore, a potential risk of unreliability and inconstancy. In order to mitigate this problem, the quality of the maize (maize) was previously obtained in laboratory testing. With the purpose of identifying the yield of grits and flour, a lab-scale degermination, milling and sifting are needed. This cumbersome process may take up to two hours to provide a reliable result. The alternative is to ship the samples to a specialized laboratory which could then take days to get the results. Either method of quality control risks discovering you have a poor crop after it is too late and the maize is already in the silo bins.

Unveiling yield through image analysis With the mobile maize analyzer GrainiGoTM, Bühler has developed a powerful image analysis tool that enables easy, objective and, above all, very fast analysis of yellow and white maize. By using the photograph function of either an Android or an IOS smartphone and a portable briefcase into which you place your samples, GrainiGoTM is able to create the ideal conditions to capture the unique characteristics of the kernel and send the information into the cloud for further analysis. Thus, be it directly on the field or at the intake of the mill: with GrainiGoTM, the sample is analyzed within minutes in terms of quality and expected yield. Based on the quickly and reliably determined quality, producers and buyers can set a binding price for the raw material maize even in the field or certainly before unloading. Thus, a costly production run with reduced yield can be prevented.

How it works The way GrainiGoTM works is not so different from those timeless methods used by maize traders. By taking samples of maize kernels and assessing their length and internal structure along with the number that is broken or induced by stress cracking, it is possible (using state of the art techniques such as deep machine learning) to judge crop quality and so product yield. Firstly, a sample of 150 to 350 maize kernels are spread on a tray integrated into the briefcase. Secondly, a foldable lightbox is placed on top of the sample. With light projected from the bottom of the tray, the kernels reveal their internal structures. When light is projected from above, they expose their exterior qualities. Once the maize sample has been prepared, a photograph is taken with a smartphone and the analysis can begin.

Results within minutes The images of the maize samples are uploaded to the GrainiGoTM analysis website directly from the smartphone or a computer. There, the data is analyzed with an algorithm and compared with the data from the historical database. Graphically and numerically processed the user gets an insight of the average grain size, the number of grains that do not reach a minimum size, how many grains are broken or induced by stress cracking. GrainiGoTM then determines the expected yield according to these criteria with a margin of error of two percent. The analysis proceeds in less than two minutes; afterward the results are shown directly on the smartphone or computer and can be downloaded as a quality report. An individual customer account traces all past analyses and guarantees reviewability at any time. The export function allows the integration of the data into other quality management systems and provides enhanced product traceability. Unlimited access to the analysis and regular updates are included in the monthly subscription fee. The only prerequisite for the successful use of the mobile maize laboratory is an internet connection.

Cost-effective and flexible The new Bühler mobile analysis tool GrainiGoTM consists of a lightweight briefcase that is easy to use and portable. In comparison with the laboratory, GrainiGoTM operates location-independently and therefore, allows the deployment at any point of the production chain. The innovative business model Bühler is offering also supports maximum flexibility. According to their individual needs, customers can subscribe to GrainiGoTM online on a monthly basis.

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